U-God – “Venom” review


Almost 5 years after the release of the highly underrated The Keynote Speaker & with his autobiography coming out earlier this month, Wu-Tang Clan member U-God is returning with his 5th full-length album. The opener “Exordium” brags about his success as an MC over an orchestral beat & the next song “Unstoppable” talks about his longevity over a decent Powers Pleasant instrumental. The track “Epicenter” with Raekwon, Inspectah Deck & Scotty Wotty sees the 4 telling us that the Clan is the central point of hip hop over an sinister boom bap beat from DJ Green Lantern while the song “Bit da Dust” tells the story of someone getting stuck over a DJ Homicide beat that sounds like something the Wu-Elements would’ve produced.

The song “Elegance” is a smooth love tune with a decent hook from Nomdiq while the track “Climate” touches down on the current state of hip hop over some sinister keys & punchy drums. The titular song gets braggadocious & the way he flows over the beat is perfect while the track “Felon” reflects on his criminal past over a Large Professor instrumental with a killer rap rock vibe to it. The song “Legacy” is an ode to U-God’s own legacy & the horns in the instrumental where a nice touch.

The track “Whole World Watchin’” brags about how skillful he is over a gritty horn-inflicted boom bap beat from Lord Finesse while the song “XXX” with Method Man sees the 2 venting about a couple jealous exes they had over a infectious beat. The penultimate track “Jackpot” is basically a Scotty Wotty song since U-God doesn’t appear on it at all & while it’s not terrible, I feel like it didn’t need to be on here. The album then closes with “Wisdom”, where Golden Arms gets insightful over an ambitious beat.

Honestly, this is up there with The Keynote Speaker & Golden Arms Redemption as one of U-God’s better solo albums. The production is mostly on point & lyrically, it’s probably his most mature one yet.

Score: 4/5


Wu-Tang Clan – “The Saga Continues” review

When it seemed like 2014’s A Better Tomorrow would be the almighty Wu-Tang Clan’s final group album, they’re now returning with their 7th official full-length album (excluding the single-copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin) & they have enlisted Wu-Elements member Mathematics to produce it in it’s entirety. After a 91 second instrumental intro with a spoken word sample & then an actual spoken monologue from the Clan’s de facto leader RZA, we are then treated to the album’s first song “Lesson Learn’d”. Here, Inspectah Deck teams up with Redman to remind you that they never play around over a hard hitting boom bap instrumental & I also didn’t mind Deck’s jab at the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin purchaser Martin Shkreli near the end of his verse, given that he’s an evil culture vulture. The track “Fast & Furious” is pretty much Raekwon & Hue Hef getting mafioso over a menacing instrumental & while Hue was just ok, Rae definitely made up for it. After a short instrumental interlude that takes it back the group’s early days with a Kung Fu sample, we are then lead into the next song If Time’s Money (Fly Navigation). It’s pretty much a Method Man solo cut, but he makes up for his last album The Meth Lab by hopping on an instrumental you can really kick back to & spitting a long yet charismatic verse.

The track “Frozen” may have a lazy hook as it recycles a couple Rae & Ghostface Killah lines from “4 Horsemen”, but the verses from Meth about pushing the limit as well as the vivid storytelling from Killah Priest & the lethally angry Chris Rivers make up for it some keys along with a bass guitar & a regular guitar. After a 45 second skit with a soulful instrumental in the background, we then get into the next song “Pearl Harbor”. Here, the late Sean Price gets with Meth & RZA to confrontationally spit bars like being the greatest & telling your crew to wear shorts with an image of you on it over some gritty horns as well as some keys & an organ. I also love how RZA brings back his Bobby Digital alter ego during his verse & the one line he makes midway through his part about how he can turn Lady Gaga heterosexual again was pretty hilarious. The track “People Say” sees Deck, Meth, Rae & Masta Killa linking back up with Redman alongside to get braggadocious over a very soulful boom bap beat. “Family” is a 1 minute skit containing a sample of a mother talking about family (hence the title) & the next song “Why Why Why” is basically a conscious RZA solo cut over some funky bass & some decently sung vocals from Swnkah.

The track “G’d Up” is basically Meth & R-Mean talking about being just that & the beat is pretty luscious, but the Mzee Jones hook sounds like a cut-rate T-Pain. The song “If What You Say Is True” sees Cappadonna along with GZA & Masta Killa getting with Streetlife to spit some abrasive battle rhymes over some sinister horns. The “skit” Saga is less of a skit & more of RZA spitting about haters not wanting the Clan grow & even a cool reference to the Flint water crisis over some beautiful strings. The 91 second “Hood Go Bang!” has a decent Redman hook, but then lone verse that Method Man delivers nearly has the same rhyme scheme throughout that it’s crazy. The final song in the track listing is “My Only One”, where Cappa along with The Abbott & Tony Starks rap about their boos over a grimy instrumental. The next 2 tracks are just a 2 minute interlude with a funky instrumental & long spoken word sample & then a 45 second monologued outro from the RZA over the same instrumental as the one in the intro.

At the end of the day, this was a lot more consistent than the last few group albums. It feels more like a compilation considering the fact that there’s only 1 or 2 group members on a number of tracks & U-God not being on it at all, but everyone including almost all the features go & Mathematics probably made it the Clan’s most well produced album since The W

Score: 4/5

Masta Killa – “Loyalty is Royalty” review


It’s been 6 long years in the making & just when it seems like it would never come out, Wu-Tang Clan member Masta Killa is finally releasing his long-awaited 4th full-length album. After a 41 second intro, we are treated to the album’s first song “Return of thee Masta Kill”. While the instrumental from Blahzay Blahzay producer/DJ PF Cuttin’ has this twangy guitar with some boom bap drums & I’m fine with the verses from both Masta Killa & fellow Wu member Cappadonna during the beginning & end respectively, bu Young Dudas’ was just average to me. The self-titled track is basically Jamel Irief romantically talking to his lady & the beautifully smooth 9th Wonder instrumental compliments the tone very well. The track “Therapy” with Method Man & Redman insightfully talks about music being therapeutic to them over a piano loop & some boom bap drums & while the song “OGs Told Me” has a great Cortex sample throughout provided by the producer Dame Grease, my biggest issue with it is that it feels more like a Boy Backs song given the fact that he dominates almost every verse except for Masta Killa’s that comes in halfway through. After a 98 second spoken word piece from the Clan’s de facto leader RZA over somber piano chords, we are then treated into the next track “Trouble”. Here, Jamel’s vividly rapping about how his criminal days began over a soulful instrumental. Then after a 1 minute skit, we are then treated to the next song “Down with Me”. For this joint, Masta Killa gets with the late Sean Price to brag about their rapping prowesses over a boom bap instrumental with some bass. The track “Tiger & the Mantice” with GZA & Inspectah Deck sounds like a vintage Wu banger from the Kung Fu film sample to the battle rap lyricism from all 3 MCs. The song “Real People” has a murderous tone lyrically & the guest verses from Prodigy & KXNG CROOKED were absolutely perfect. The track “Flex with Me” charismatically spits about the lavish life over some jungle-ish drums & the Chanel Sosa hook is pretty catchy as well. The song “Calculated” has this wailing down-tuned synthesizer throughout & despite Jamel’s verse at the end sounding ambitious, I wasn’t feeling the 2 verses from Ra Stacks & Knick Gunz that precede it all that much. Also, the hook sounds like the type of hook I’d hear on the radio. Before we get a 2 minute outro to close out the album, we get 2 last songs with “Noodles, Pts. 1 & 2”. Both of these songs should’ve been combined into 1 entire track rather than being split in 2 parts, I do like the orchestral mafioso vibe of the first half along with the seductive vibe of the other half. Personally, I think this album was worth the long wait. Sure some of the tracks have already been released for a period of time & I could’ve done without a couple of the features, but it’s well produced & Masta Killa continues to prove himself as one of the Clan’s most underrated swordsmen over time

Score: 3.5/5

Cappadonna – “The Yin & The Yang” review

After starting off his solo career with the underrated The Pillage, Wu-Tang Clan member Cappadonna is finally delivering a sophomore effort. The album starts off with “The Grits”, which has some triumphant horns along with some aggressive verses from both Cappa & the song’s producer Agallah. The next song “Super Model” sees Cappa talking about groupies over some hard hitting boom bap drums & a guitar sample. The Ghostface Killah hook on here is just ok, though. The track “War Rats” has a confrontative vibe throughout, but the beat’s bland & the hook is just redundant. The song “Love’s the Message” with Raekwon is a nice club track & while the disco-influenced production on here was surprising, it fits with the vibe very well. While the song “We Know” has a decent beat from Jermaine Dupri, the rapidly delivered verse from Da Brat about halfway through the track makes up for it. To be completely honest, this was just ok. Cappa himself isn’t really the issue, but rather there’s a lot more features than there should’ve been & the production on most of these tracks were just weak

Score: 2.5/5

Raekwon – “Lost Jewlry” review

To increase anticipation for his 6th album F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art), Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon is delivering his 2nd EP to prelude it. The track “Young Boy Penalties” is basically Rae asking the youth when will they stop committing crimes & the way Scram Jones uses the soul sample was just alright to me. The song “Hold You Down” is a love song & not only do I enjoy the Faith Evans hook on here, but the production from Buckwild also fits with the vibe very well. The track “For the Listeners” is a dedication to all of those who’re living it up, but the synthesizer during the verses is really the only characteristic of the beat that I can describe. The next song “Die Tonight” talks about going out to kill someone but eventually sparring him & I actually found the spoken dialogue at the very beginning about a “Cookie Monster hoe” was pretty funny. The song “New Day” has a better incorporated soul sample & the verses from Rae & Freddie Gibbs about murdering you & coke respectively are just hard! The closer “Whatever, Whenever” talks about keeping his gun on him in the hood as well as reminiscing about living there over a symphonic beat. Aside from feeling like the production could’ve been a tad bit better, this is a solid prelude to F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)

Score: 3/5

GZA – “Legend of the Liquid Sword” review

Just 3 years after his last album Beneath the Surface, Wu-Tang Clan member GZA is now delivering his 4th full-length album. The album opens up with the track “AutoBio”, where GZA is reminiscing about late 70’s Bronx block parties over some quiet piano keys as well as a loud orchestral string section. The track “Silent” with Ghostface Killah & Streetlife gets braggadocious about their stage performances as well as their talents & the instrumental from Bink! has an nice eerie soul sample throughout. The song “Stay in Line” is a message to wack rappers & the beat from Arabian Knight predominantly has this mellow guitar loop throughout but the war-inducing horns during Santigold’s hook are fantastic. While I can appreciate the song “Fam (Members Only)” with RZA & Masta Killa being about what the Clan strives for as well as the haunting production from Mathematics, the fact that it’s censored was really annoying. The title track talks about rappers who’re only in it for the paper & I love how Jaz-O incorporates the Quincy Jones sample into the beat. The song “Fame” cleverly name drops celebrities (similar to the tracks “Labels” & “Publicity” from his last 2 albums) over some keys as well as some boom bap drums. The song “Highway Robbery” is a tribute to the classic Big Daddy Kane track “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” & I love how the beat turns a relaxing Michael Jackson sample into something grimy. The song “Luminal” is a vivid story about ruthless killer who brutalizes a peaceful town over an ominous beat from DJ Muggs. The track “Sparring Minds” with Inspectah Deck talk about how dangerous the Clan is over a guitar loop. The album then closes out with “Uncut Material”, where The Genius is giving the self explanatory & the instrumental he makes for this track has an orchestral feeling to it. To sum it all up: The lyricism is on point like always, but I feel like the production could’ve been much better

Score: 3.5/5

Ghostface Killah – “More Fish” review

Almost 9 months after dropping a modern classic with FishScale, Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah is closing out 2006 by delivering a follow-up to it. Even though the fittingly titled opener “Ghost Is Back” has the exact same instrumental as “Juice (Know the Ledge)” by Eric B. & Rakim, he doesn’t sound bad over it at all. However, it makes me wanna go back & listen to the original. The song “Street Opera” has a soulful beat from Fantom of the Beat & I really love the chemistry between Ghost & his son Sun God on here. The track “Block Rock” has a grimy beat from Madlib & it goes PERFECTLY with the street raps that Ghost’s delivers throughout the song. The song “Blue Armor” with Ghost’s Wu Block cohort Sheek Louch sees the 2 getting hardcore over a rock-tinged beat & the penultimate track “Alex (Stolen Script)” vividly tells a story about a movie script being stolen over a funky beat from his DOOMSTARKS cohort MF DOOM. The album then closes out with a follow-up to “Back Like That” from Ghost’s last album & I like the opening verse from Kanye West. Especially when he starts it off by twisting up Ghost’s verse from “Ice Cream” by Raekwon. Honestly, this is a decent leftovers/b-sides album. A couple tracks on here were pulled from other releases that came out just before this did & while I understand that Ghost was trying to get his entire Theodore Unit side-crew out there, but I feel like the features from them were kinda all over the place

Score: 2.5/5